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2021/10/08

Suitengu

Suitengu (水天宮) in Tokyo represents characteristics discerned in most of the shrines in Tokyo. Due to its sky-high value in the price of real estate in metropolis Tokyo, the precinct of shrines there is quite compactI also noticed that they are fairly neat, well-maintained, and the buildings are modern. They also provide more than one goshuin/朱印 (= a seal stamp) that is pricier than those in rural shrines. 






Needless to say, the shrine is surrounded by tall buildings. 




Suitengu shrine is located adjacent to the Tokyo metro Suitengu-mae station of Hanzohmon line. Obviously, the metro station is named after the shrine. 


Entrance
The history of Suitengu dated from 1818 when Yorinori Arima (有馬頼徳), the 9th Lord in Kurume domain (久留米藩), transferred the deity spirits from the Kurume Suitengu (水天宮), a well-known headquarter of shrines called Suitengu. Suitengu shrines have been worshipped by those wishing for conceiving a child, safe delivery, safe sailing and prosperous fish industries that are related to water in general. 


A wooden statue of the lord Arima?

To celebrate its 200 year anniversary, the current building was built by installing the base isolation system, the state-of-the-art device to protect a building against earthquake. 



Image from Suitengu official site

Suitengu literally means the palace (gu/宮) of "Suiten (水天)". Suiten is a term found in Buddhism, depicting the deity of water (水) who is one of twelve Devas (supernatural beings). Suiten (note it's a Japanese pronunciation) corresponds to Varuna in a Vedic deity. He (Varuna is a male deity) was initially associated with the sky, later on also with the seas as well as Ṛta (justice) and Satya (truth). To make the story more complicated, he is also found in the oldest layer of Vedic literature of Hinduism. He is also mentioned in the Tamil grammar work Tolkāppiyam (ancient poem), as the god of sea and rain. At last, he is also found in JainismHinduism and Jainism are utterly beyond my comprehension, hence I would briefly describe him based on Buddhism in Japan, which is again quite unfamiliar to me...


Image of Suiten from Wiki

In Buddhism, the Pali Canon of the Theravada school, the oldest extant school, recognizes Varuṇa as a king of the devas, who is considered to live in the west (called Aparagodānīyadvīpa) of Mt. Meru (須弥山) as a guardian of the West.


In the vista of the universe of Buddhism, Varuna lives in Aparagodānīyadvīpa, whereas humans reside in the south, Jambudvīpa


Buddhism was introduced into Japan (仏教伝来) in the 6th century and was syncretized with local animism, Shinto. During syncretization (shinbutsu shuhgo/神仏習合), Varuna was assigned to Amenominakanushi (アメノミナカヌシ), the first Shinto deity to appear in KojikiAmenominakanushi is a hitorigami (ヒトリガミ), a genderless deity being recognized as "an absolute or the supreme" god. Despite the fact that Amenominakanushi is at the highest rank among myriads of Shinto deities, no attainments of Amenominakanushi were described in Japanese mythologies. In Engishiki Jinmeicho (延喜式神名帳) that lists all the then-existed shrines in the 10th Century (compiled in A.D. 903), there was not a single shrine enshrining Amenominakanushi. Shrines worshipping Amenominakanushi are classified into three types.
(A) Shrines or former temples based on the Myohken worshipping (妙見信仰)- Buddhism
(B) Shrines that are founded by the Imperial rescript issued under the name of Emperor Meiji - such as Tokyo Daijingu (東京大神宮) and Yohashira Jinja (四柱神社). 
(C) Suitengu shrines.




In almost all cases described above, `````Amenominakanushi was either introduced as a new enshrined deity or the supplanter uprooting Buddhist guardian as a consequence of the Acts promulgated from the Meiji government in 1868, pursuing sequestering Shinto from Buddhist practices, called "Shinbutsu bunri (神仏分離)". As denoted in Japanese mythologiesAmenominakanushi being a supreme deity, Amenominakanushi has not been worshipped until the Meiji restoration. Very mysterious deity, isn't it?

P.S. All photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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